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US Aid to Ukraine, Google’s AI, Nuclear Energy Topic of COP28, and UK Property Market

Military aid to Ukraine from the US could run dry by the end of December, step forward for 'Deep Mind', Google's AI specialist, aims to increase nuclear power usage by over 20 countries, and forecasts for UK house prices to fall.

US Military Aid to Ukraine Could Run Dry by Month End

The White House’s budget chief, Shalanda Young, has warned that US military aid to Ukraine could run dry by the end of the month. According to Young, the Pentagon have spent some 97% of the $62bn aid package by the middle of last month and the State Department have used the total $5bn package given for security assistance. Thus far, Congress has allocated a total of around $111bn to support Kyiv with $67bn being used for military procurement, $27bn for economic and civil assistance funding with $10bn also being spent on humanitarian aid. However, with funds in the pot running low, Young expressed how, “without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks.”

Biden in presently trying to get his request for $106bn in emergency funding for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region through Congress. Stalemate on Capitol Hill however makes the prospect of this increasingly unlikely with many Senate Republicans’ desire to continue providing support to Ukraine waning. In the instance that Biden can get the package through the Senate, the Republican led House of Representatives also presents his administration with an uphill struggle. For example, the new House Speaker Mike Johnson has called for any additional aid to Ukraine resting on immigration policy changes.

Deep Mind

Google’s London based AI specialists, Deep Mind, has made quite the step forward in identifying possible crystal compounds. The system has identified 2.2 million new crystal substances, of which 380,000 have a high chance of being stable and therefore usable. This is quite a step forward from the roughly 48,000 previously identified crystal structures and had AI not been involved it would have taken centuries to make the same number of discoveries! Add to this that a robot chemist has tried to make 58 of these materials – and succeeded in making 41 of them – which took just 17 days and we’re getting some insight as to the pace of change that AI facilitates. The application of these new materials is vast and there are plenty of people that are very excited about what challenges these could help solve in the near to medium term. The Times has more, click here to read.

Macron: “Nuclear Energy is Back”

Nuclear power has been a hot topic of conversation at COP28, with over 20 countries aiming to triple their nuclear power usage by the end 2050. Such is the dialogue around nuclear power at the climate summit that French President Emmanuel Macron has said that ‘Nuclear energy is back’ as the US, UK Hungary, and the Netherlands are amongst those signing the pledge. Another such country includes the host state, the UAE, who yesterday signed a memorandum with TerraPower LLC (a nuclear reactor design company which focuses on advanced reactors) to investigate greater integration of nuclear energy.

Sticking with nuclear energy, The Economist has written an article which looks at the speed in which China is expanding its nuclear power facilities across the country. It writes how over the last 10-year, China has built 37 new reactors to bring its total number of facilities to 55, as it tries to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The world’s second largest economy has already announced its intention to be carbon natural by 2060, though 50% of its energy still derives from fossil fuels. China’s investment into nuclear energy is a marked increase form the US which has built two new reactors in the past ten years, bringing the total number to 93. Meanwhile, much of Europe has in fact decommissioned nuclear reactors over the past decade, particularly in the wake of the Fukushima incident of 2011. What’s more, China aims to build no less than six reactors each year. For more, click here to read the article.

UK Housing Market

In the UK property market: Rightmove are forecasting that prices will fall by 1% in 2024, slightly less than the 1.5%-ish fall this year. The subdued price declines, despite interest rising significantly in the last 12 months really comes down to people with fixed term mortgages not being able to move up the chain and being forced to stay where they are, effectively reducing the supply of housing stock – which in turn keeps prices for available houses elevated. This situation will likely continue into next year, though plenty of households will be coming off fixed term deals that were secured when base rates were below one percent, and therefore be forced into an uncomfortable position of remortgaging ahead of what could be a dip in rates as the year progresses.

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